Our world, despite myriad advances in technology during the past century, still needs to be changed for the better. Too many people do not have access to clean water, reliable energy, the Internet, or health care. Not everyone has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential through access to education.
I believe that one of the most important applications of technology is to improve people’s lives. For those in underserved regions of the world, technology can save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity. Technological innovation is the principal driver for improvements in quality of life and economic prosperity. Technology professionals are central to this innovation. Every day, IEEE members around the world are working to advance technology to benefit those whose need is greatest.
For example, in May I had the privilege to spend several weeks in Africa representing IEEE. It was one of the most inspiring and unforgettable opportunities of my professional career. IEEE is working with several organizations to provide educational support and technical development to the engineering profession throughout Africa.
In addition, across the continent, top African officials from government, industry, and academia are committed to encouraging women and girls to participate in information and communication technology (ICT) fields. And it is not just talk—they are putting programs in place and funding them. I think this is an impressive example of the support needed worldwide to build the pipeline of technologists, particularly female, for the future.
Through this type of collaboration, students and underserved communities around the world are able to benefit from technology as we work together to solve important problems and provide solutions to such life-altering issues as clean water, reliable energy, food production, health care, and education. Students, young professionals, and underserved communities are key to IEEE’s future and a focus of our strategic objectives in building the next generation of members. In addition, these groups are among those who benefit the most from IEEE Foundation programs.
The IEEE Foundation works to raise funds to invest in IEEE programs that bring the promise of technology, and the knowledge of how to apply it, to improve the world. The Foundation supports educational and humanitarian programs around the globe, particularly through its priority initiatives: the IEEE Smart Village, Engineering Projects in Community Service in IEEE (EPICS in IEEE), the IEEE Power & Energy (PES) Society Scholarship Plus Initiative, and IEEE REACH (Raising Engineering Awareness Through the Conduit of History).
EPICS in IEEE, for example, matches IEEE members and student members with high school students to work in collaboration with community-based organizations on engineering-related projects. With a recent EPICS in IEEE grant, IEEE student members from Beijing Jiaotong University, along with preuniversity students from local schools, built desks and chairs that can easily be adjusted to the height of children in primary grades. The premise was that furniture built to take into account the distance between a student’s eyes and the top of her desk will encourage good posture. In turn, this can help reduce myopia, scoliosis, and other conditions. Properly sized furniture can also help lessen fatigue, while encouraging learning and information retention.
The PES Scholarship Plus Initiative has provided financial support as well as work experience to more than 700 undergraduate electrical engineering students from Canada, India, Puerto Rico, and the United States. The initiative is helping to attract highly qualified engineering students to the power industry. These students will one day develop new green technologies, build the smart grid, and change the way the world generates and utilizes power.
The IEEE Foundation has embarked on an exciting path forward, launching the Realizing the Full Potential of IEEE campaign. This comprehensive campaign aims to raise US $30 million by IEEE Day 2020 to sustain and grow existing IEEE programs, expand the reach of the Foundation’s philanthropy, and open new doors for both the Foundation and IEEE. This ambitious initiative was developed by IEEE Fellow Leah Jamieson, who served as the 2007 IEEE president and president of the IEEE Foundation from 2012 to 2016. The IEEE Foundation board of directors, led by IEEE Foundation president John Treichler, a Life Fellow, along with the Foundation’s professional staff, will lead the charge.
Members’ involvement with and support of IEEE and the IEEE Foundation are critical to efforts to advance our profession, the work of IEEE, and the endeavors of engineering professionals worldwide. As engineers and scientists, we have the opportunity every day to engage in projects to change our world for the better.
Technology can overcome tough challenges. It always has. And at no other point in recorded history have we had more possibilities before us to apply our skills and abilities to address problems facing humanity. The initiatives you choose to work on can span the breadth of humanity. The technologies used to address these issues can be as diverse as the engineering and scientific branches in which our members excel.
I encourage all of our members to be engaged, be involved, and be part of the drive toward fulfilling our mission of advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.
Please share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appears in the September 2017 print issue as “Building the Foundation for a Better World.”